Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

characters, whose dispositions, or habits of mind, undergo any considerable change after they are grown to man's estate ? Our tempers, and general characters are usually fixed as soon as we have fixed ourselves in a regular employment and mode of life. For, after this, we see almost every person continue the very same to the end of his life. Some remarkable providential occurrence, some fit of sickness, or some unforeseen misfortune of any kind, may alarm those who have been addicted to vicious courses, and for a time bring thein to se-, rious thought and reflexion; but if they be turned thirty or forty years of age, how soon do the serious purposes, which they then form, go off, and their former modes of thinking and living return? Not only with respect to temper, and disposition of mind, as it relates to virtue or vice, but with respect those habits which are indifferent to morals, we see that, excepting one case perhaps in a thousand, they are not subject to change after the period that I have mentioned. Any habits that we contract early in life, any particular bias or inclination; any particular cast of thought, or mode of conversation : even any particular gesture of body, as in walking, sitting, &c. we are universally known by among our acquaintance, from the time

that

that we properly enter life to the time that we have done with it; as much as we are by the tone of our voice, or our hand-writing, which likewise are of the nature of habits, or customs.

These observations may be applied in a great measure even to matters of opinion, (though, na. turally, nothing seems to be more variable) as well as to mental and corporeal habits. A man who has studied, or who fancies he has studied, any parti. cular subject, sooner or later makes up his mind, as we say, with respect to it; and after this,, all arguments, intended to convince him of his mistake, only serve to confirm him in his chosen way

of thinking. An argument, or evidence of any kind, that is entirely new to a man, may make a proper impression upon him; but if it has been often proposed to him, and he has had time to view and * consider it, so as to have hit upon any method of evading the force of it, he is afterwards quite callous to it, and can very seldom be prevailed upon to give it any proper attention. This consideration. accounts, in some measure, both for the great infuence of christianity on its first publication, when the doctrines were new and striking, and also for the absolute indifference with which the same great ruths are now heard in all christian countries,

mong us.

It accounts also for the more striking effect of the preaching of the methodists than ours. They find people utterly ignorant, to whom the truths, the promises, and the threatenings, of the gospel are really new ; whereas we have to do with persons who have heard them from their infancy, and have, alas, acquired a habit of disregarding them. But then our people, having, in general; been brought up in habits of virtue, such great changes of character and conduct are less necessary in their case. It is to be regretted, however, that they too seldom exceed that mediocrity of character which they acquire in early life. I speak of the generality, a

For others are remarkable exceptions, persons

of disinterested and heroic virtųe, in full proportion to the superior advantages which they enjoy.

The resistance which the mind makes to the admission of truth, when it has been strongly prejudiced against it, is evident both with respect to the belief of christianity in general, and of particular opinions relating to it. There are many persons, by no means defective with respect to judgment in other things, of whose conversion to christianity we can have no more reasonable expectation, than of the sun rising in the west, even though they

should

should consent to hear, or read, every thing that we could

propose to them for that purpose. There are also many conscientious and intelligent roman catholics, absurd as we justly think their principles to be, who would deliberately read the best defences of protestantism, without any other effect than that of being more confirmed in their prejudices against it. The same may be said of persons professing other modes of faith ; so that their persuasions are not to be changed, except by such a me. thod as that which was applied for the conversion of the apostle Paul. The same observation may also be applied to many opinions, and especially to a general bias, or turn of thinking, in matters of a political nature, and even in subjects of philosophy, or criticism.

Facts of this kind, of which we are all witnesses, and which come within the observation of every day in our lives, shew in a very striking light, what care we ought to take in forming our first judgments of things, and in contracting our first habits, and therefore deserve the more especial attention of young persons. For we see that when these principles and habits are once properly formed, they are generally fixed for life. Whatever is fact with respect to mankind in general, we ought

to

to conclude to be the case with respect to ourselves that the cause is in the constitution of our common ; nature, and dependent upon the fundamental laws of it, and, no doubt a wise and useful part of it;: and we must not expect that miracles will be wrought in our favour.

To shew that there is the greatest advantage, as well as some inconvenience, resulting from this : disposition to fixity, as we call it, in our own nature, let it be observed, that if there was nolhing fixed, : or permanent, in the human character, we should find the same inconvenience, as if any other law of nature was unsettled. We should be perpetually at a loss how to conduct ourselves, how to behave to mankind in general, and even to our own parti. cular friends and acquaintance, especially. after having been for any space of time absent from : them. We do not expect to find persons the very same in all changes of condition or circumstances, as in sickness and health, prosperity and adversity; &c. but then we generally know what kind of change to expect in them in those circumstances, and we regulate our conduct towards them by our experience of the usual effect of similar changes.

These observations, when applied to opinions, may serve to amuse us, but when they are applied

[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »